The Gallery

Round Trip Distance: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 5196 - 5355 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 2 hrs.
Trailhead: John's Canyon Spring
Fee: none
Attractions: petroglyphs

The Gallery is a concentrated area of petroglyphs that are located below Cedar Mesa off of the John's Canyon Road near Mexican Hat, Utah. The area includes several popular panels with names like the Hunt Panel, Men on a Bus and The Obelisk. Access to the area via the John's Canyon Road requires a high clearance vehicle, preferably 4WD. Mountain bikes and ATV's are an mode of transportation that are both commonly seen in the area. If the road isn't too powdery just before the 4 mile point then 2WD vehicles with normal to moderate clearance can drive as far as 5 miles or so.

To get there drive along the John's Canyon Road for 14.6 from the Goosenecks State Park Road. At the 14.6 mile point the road crosses the wash at John's Canyon Spring. The road gets very rough as it climbs out of the wash so many people choose to park before the wash and begin hiking from that point. After the road gets back up to level ground it comes to a fork. The left fork continues for another 12-13 miles towards Slickhorn Canyon while the right fork goes further into John's Canyon. While there are a handful of petroglyph sites found all around the base of the mountain in this photo the concentration of panels known as the Gallery are to the right in the general area indicated by the red parentheses. A good steward will stay on the designated road and park in an existing pullout rather than make new routes through the brush. Once you get close to the Gallery you can hike up one of the small washes where you will likely find a social trail that leads by all the places you will want to see. (For turn by turn directions enter 'John's Canyon Spring' into your driving app.)

About the only image that can be spotted from the road is this snake that is on top of a long upended slab that is right at the edge of the Gallery. On the day that we took the photos for this post we actually drove down the left fork for about a half mile and parked at a pullout there. Then we hiked further west along the road to a side canyon. The purpose was to explore the side canyon and then hike back around the base of the mountain to this spot. We found a handful of other petroglyph sites in the process which began with a large rock shelter in the mouth of the side canyon that had a small panel of petroglyphs.

These images are a hundred feet or so up the side of the hill on the west end of the Gallery. The panel itself is inaccessible without a lot of climbing and scrambling.

There are a number of smaller black rocks with nice images in the area below where the previous photo was taken. This was one of our favorite panels even though it is terribly difficult to see. It turned out to be a bad day to leave our spare filters and 50 mm lens in the truck. To give you an idea of where to look this rock probably wasn't over knee high and it is black all around. There is a nice spiral on the far right that is facing in a different direction.

The Hunt and Men on a Bus panels are on the same free standing boulder. They are accompanied by a good number of other images that include a couple of large deer or elk and an assortment of interesting anthropomorphic images. Those with ducks for heads represent katsina that take the form of a duck when they travel through the air. The Hunt Panel includes corn plants, bighorn sheep and a number of hunters and atlatls. There is also a reclining image of the Katsina Paiyatemu, the Patron of Music and Flowers, wearing a katsina feather and playing a flute.

The Men of a Bus panel takes up a spot below a long crack that runs across the boulder. The images that are often referred to as dancers are a common theme in the area. Here there are a number of them in a seating position that are all in a row.

Another interesting panel is a tall boulder that is standing on end like an obelisk that has some nicely preserved images on its lower end. The images include several katsina with either ducks or feathers on their heads, what looks like a stork, men with throwing sticks and atlatls and a few animal tracks.

Just to give an idea of where to look this small panel is on a large boulder a good 20 feet or more above the ground.

A large house sized boulder sits all by itself just down the slope from the Hunt Panel that has several different styles of petroglyphs on all of its sides.

Rock shelters can be found beneath the natural shelter of some of the boulders. Such shelters seem to have been the common habitation of the pre-ceramic basketmaker people that left behind the images found upon the rocks.

The map to the right has read dots that mark many of the sites but there are far more minor, yet very interesting, panels besides these that weren't given a dot but that can be found with a little exploring. The spring in John's Canyon appears to be a reliable water source and while hiking it is common to come upon deer and elk skat. Between that and the natural shelters that can be found around many of the large boulders the people of the time would have had much that was needed to sustain them during the period of the year that brought them here. Modern day visitors should confine their campsites to the existing ones that are strung out all along the John's Canyon Road or those in the cottonwoods near the spring. There is another area of scattered petroglyphs a few miles further west that we will post next to fill out more of what can be found in the area. As far as The Gallery goes, if you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.